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New VP for Diversity hopes to help Andrews University progress

BERRIEN SPRINGS -- After a group of black students released a video asking for Andrews University to improve how it handles diversity on campus, a new administrator was hired.

“It is time for Andrews University to apologize for the systemic racism it has perpetuated on its campus,” a student says, looking into the camera of a video that was released in February.

One by one, several Andrews University students spoke in the video.

They demanded the Christian university – which was ranked #2 for ethnic diversity and #8 for international diversity on campus by US News Best Colleges – apologize within a week and start making changes.

About a quarter of the student population is from outside the U.S., and a breakdown shows 34 percent of students are white, 25 percent are Asian, 19 percent are Hispanic, and 16 percent are black.

“One week to not only apologize, but to commit to making measurable changes that will ensure that future generations will not have to experience what we have experienced,” another student says in the video.

Five days later, the university’s administration released a video response.

“As an organization, we have been guilty of racial bias, of making our faculty, staff, and students of color feel less than,” Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University, says in the video. “We have not listened well enough. We have not been sensitive enough. And we have missed opportunities to take action, where action should’ve been taken.”

Now, as students begin returning to campus for the fall semester, they’ll be met by the university’s first-ever vice president for diversity and inclusion.

“You can just tell that the university is being very intentional about creating a more inclusive environment,” said Michael Nixon, who began his new role in the beginning of August. “And that’s not something that I remember growing up, or when I was a student.”

Nixon graduated from Andrews in 2009.

He had grown up around the university because his father had worked as a chaplain on campus.

Nixon left a job in New York City as a civil rights fair housing attorney to return to Andrews and help make change.

“Even though it was difficult things to talk about; even though it was hard things to hear; it gave us a moment to say, ‘Yes. Let’s really move forward on these things, even if they’re some of the hardest things to talk about,” said Stephen Payne, the university’s vice president for marketing and communication.

Nixon said he plans to really interact with students this year to find out what’s working for them and what’s not.

The university also announced in that video response that all faculty and staff will go through expanded cultural diversity training.  

 

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